Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Paterson (N.J.) Catholic scored its biggest victory in recent memory Wednesday night when it beat Austin Rivers and Winter Park (Fla.), 62-54, to win the 37th annual City of Palms Classic at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla.
Trailing 51-50, the Cougars closed the game on a 12-3 run, getting four points from sophomore Kyle Anderson, who hit two clutch free throws to put PC up 60-52, and four points from Seton Hall-bound forward Fuquan Edwin (pictured courtesy news-press.com), who stuffed home a massive dunk to give PC a 62-52 lead.
Edwin finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals and junior point guard Myles Mack was named the ESPNU Player of the Game after finishing with 15 points, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.
6-foot-5 senior guard Jayon James added 11 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds while playing tough defense on Rivers down the stretch and th 6-7 Anderson added 6 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
The undefeated Cougars (4-0) beat Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony team last year in the Non-Public Group B playoffs and reached the New Jersey Tournament of Champions final with Tim Thomas in 1994, but this may well have been their biggest victory on a national stage. The Cougars hadn’t even played in the City of Palms event since Thomas was on the team in ’95.
“It means a lot,” Edwin said in a phone interview after the game. “Just coming here, there was a lot of nationally ranked teams here and we came here to ball out and we played hard and we got the win.
“We’re going to eat at Taco Bell,” he added.
Rivers, a junior who has committed to Florida but is still considering Duke, finished with 27 points, including the two final points of the game.
Rivers was coming off a 45-point outburst in a 75-60 victory over Dan Hurley’s St. Benedict’s team in the semifinals Tuesday.
His father, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, was in the stands for the finals.
“He’s a good player,” Mack said of Rivers. “He’s a very good player. He has one of the best first steps I’ve ever seen.”
Paterson Catholic raced out to a 13-0 lead but the Cougars then went cold and committed numerous turnovers as Rivers heated up.
Rivers took the game over in the first half, scoring a sweet underhanded layup around two PC defenders to give Winter Park its first lead at 18-17.
Winter Park (8-3) led by as many as 10 points, 27-17, after rattling off a 27-4 run.
But James hit a layup and Mack drained a 3-pointer before the halftime buzzer to cut it to 31-26 at the break.
After Winter Park took a 48-45 second-half lead on a pair of foul shots, Mack drained a 3-pointer to put PC up 50-48 with 4:12 remaining.
Rivers answered with a 3 of his own for a 51-50 Winter Park lead.
But Edwin scored in transition to give the Cougars a 52-51 edge at the 3:06 mark. He then added a foul shot for a 53-51 PC lead.
The 6-7 Anderson then hit a runner in the lane for a 55-51 PC edge.
Rivers made 1-of-2 to cut it to 55-52 but Jameshit a jumper in the paint for a 57-52 PC edge. James added 1-of-2 foul shots to extend it to 58-52 and Anderson added two more free throws for a 60-52 lead with about a minute left.
Edwin covered Rivers early, but credited the 6-5 James with playing strong defense on Rivers down the stretch.
“We just wanted to make someobdy else do something,” Edwin said. “That’s why we put Jayon James on him to make him make a tough shot. If they rely on somebody else, that’s not their team strategy.”
PC is now 4-0 after perhaps its biggest win since the Tim Thomas Era.
“This is a very big win,” Mack said, “but now we have to keep winning.”
FREE THROWS & RECRUITING NOTES:
Former Paterson Catholic and Rutgers star Marquis Webb was on the bench as an assistant for the Cougars
…Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Providence, Temple, St. Joe’s and Seton Hall have offered junior forward Derrick Randall, Wright said, while Georgetown and Pittsburgh “really like him.”
…Mack said he holds nine scholarship offers and mentioned Fordham, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Hofstra, Drexel and Western Kentucky. “I don’t really have any favorite,” he said
…Edwin had this message for Seton Hall fans: “I just want to say to all the fans when I come there I’m going to be a big part of the team, bring a lot of energy.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.